Even with three weeks of training under their belts, coach Jeffrey Cariaso admitted the new-look Alaska Aces still have a lot to learn as they continue preparing for the 2021 PBA Philippine Cup.
"After three weeks, it's still obvious there's still a lot to work on. But what (has) improved is our shape on the court and camaraderie," shared Cariaso with ESPN5.
The Alaska mentor is also keeping a watchful eye on rookies led by first-round selection Ben Adamos and Fil-Canadian Taylor Browne as well as Alec Stockton and RK Ilagan in the hopes they will quickly imbibe the Aces' culture.
"What's important right now is they understand what to do so they can showcase what they do best," shared the 48-year-old tactician. "They are learning the culture also as that's as important for us."
Veteran Mike DiGregorio, meantime, is just happy to finally be back on the court with his teammates.
"Everything serves its own purpose, but of course it's great to be on the court as a full team, get the whole group together as a full unit, and really hammer down our principles as far as our offensive and defensive schemes. That speeds up the learning curve," explained the 29-year-old out of McKendree University.
And after nearly a month, DiGregorio is hopeful Alaska's endeavors to Batangas can augur well for their next campaign.
"The most obvious and biggest difference, for sure, is our preparation time as a full team," said the sweet-shooting guard. "(Last season), we didn't get to practice as a full team until nine or 10 days before our first game. So having a full three weeks already and another three to four weeks to go before our first game this time around is a bigger advantage for our group."
The 6-foot-1 sharpshooter is also confident that Adamos and their other rookies are capable of contributing right away, given their unique skill sets.
"Also, I really like our flow and chemistry as a group. We have a great group of guys and a competitive group of guys," noted DiGregorio, who averaged 11.45 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 1.45 assists in last season's 'bubble' in Clark.
As Cariaso has a handful of backcourt players at his disposal, DiGregorio is just focused on continuing to improve.
"I know what I bring to the table and I just focus and lock in on what I need to do on a day-to-day basis, focusing on my work and being the best version of myself," he stressed.
Alaska reached the quarterfinals of the 2020 Philippine Cup before bowing to eventual runner-up TNT KaTropa.